Plotinus (/plɒˈtnəs/; Greek: Πλωτῖνος, Plōtinos; c.204/5 – 270) was a major Hellenistic philosopher who lived in Roman Egypt. In his philosophy, described in the Enneads, there are three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul.[2] His teacher was Ammonius Saccas, who was of the Platonic tradition.[3] Historians of the 19th century invented the term Neoplatonism[3] and applied it to Plotinus and his philosophy, which was influential during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Much of the biographical information about Plotinus comes from Porphyry's preface to his edition of Plotinus' Enneads. His metaphysical writings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Jewish, Christian, Gnostic, and Islamic metaphysicians and mystics, including developing precepts that influence mainstream theological concepts within religions, such as his work on duality of the One in two metaphysical states. This concept is similar to the Christian notion of Jesus being both god and man, a foundational idea in Christian theology which is derived from the Old Testament Jewish dual Godhead.

Died270 (aged 6465)
Campania, Roman Empire
Notable work
The Enneads
EraAncient philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
Platonism, metaphysics, mysticism
Notable ideas
Emanation of all things from the One
Three main hypostases: the One, Intellect, and Soul


Porphyry reported that Plotinus was 66 years old when he died in 270, the second year of the reign of the emperor Claudius II, thus giving us the year of his teacher's birth as around 205. Eunapius reported that Plotinus was born in the Deltaic Lycopolis in Egypt, which has led to speculations that he may have been either native Egyptian, Hellenized Egyptian,[4] Roman,[5] or Greek.[6]

Plotinus had an inherent distrust of materiality (an attitude common to Platonism), holding to the view that phenomena were a poor image or mimicry (mimesis) of something "higher and intelligible" (VI.I) which was the "truer part of genuine Being". This distrust extended to the body, including his own; it is reported by Porphyry that at one point he refused to have his portrait painted, presumably for much the same reasons of dislike. Likewise Plotinus never discussed his ancestry, childhood, or his place or date of birth[7]. From all accounts his personal and social life exhibited the highest moral and spiritual standards.

Plotinus took up the study of philosophy at the age of twenty-seven, around the year 232, and travelled to Alexandria to study. There he was dissatisfied with every teacher he encountered until an acquaintance suggested he listen to the ideas of Ammonius Saccas. Upon hearing Ammonius lecture, he declared to his friend, "this was the man I was looking for," and began to study intently under his new instructor. Besides Ammonius, Plotinus was also influenced by the works of Alexander of Aphrodisias, Numenius, and various Stoics.

Expedition to Persia and return to Rome

After spending the next eleven years in Alexandria, he then decided, at the age of around 38, to investigate the philosophical teachings of the Persian philosophers and the Indian philosophers.[8] In the pursuit of this endeavor he left Alexandria and joined the army of Gordian III as it marched on Persia. However, the campaign was a failure, and on Gordian's eventual death Plotinus found himself abandoned in a hostile land, and only with difficulty found his way back to safety in Antioch.

At the age of forty, during the reign of Philip the Arab, he came to Rome, where he stayed for most of the remainder of his life.[7] There he attracted a number of students. His innermost circle included Porphyry, Amelius Gentilianus of Tuscany, the Senator Castricius Firmus, and Eustochius of Alexandria, a doctor who devoted himself to learning from Plotinus and attending to him until his death. Other students included: Zethos, an Arab by ancestry who died before Plotinus, leaving him a legacy and some land; Zoticus, a critic and poet; Paulinus, a doctor of Scythopolis; and Serapion from Alexandria. He had students amongst the Roman Senate beside Castricius, such as Marcellus Orontius, Sabinillus, and Rogantianus. Women were also numbered amongst his students, including Gemina, in whose house he lived during his residence in Rome, and her daughter, also Gemina; and Amphiclea, the wife of Ariston the son of Iamblichus.[9] Finally, Plotinus was a correspondent of the philosopher Cassius Longinus.

Later life

While in Rome Plotinus also gained the respect of the Emperor Gallienus and his wife Salonina. At one point Plotinus attempted to interest Gallienus in rebuilding an abandoned settlement in Campania, known as the 'City of Philosophers', where the inhabitants would live under the constitution set out in Plato's Laws. An Imperial subsidy was never granted, for reasons unknown to Porphyry, who reports the incident.

Porphyry subsequently went to live in Sicily, where word reached him that his former teacher had died. The philosopher spent his final days in seclusion on an estate in Campania which his friend Zethos had bequeathed him. According to the account of Eustochius, who attended him at the end, Plotinus' final words were: "Try to raise the divine in yourselves to the divine in the all."[10] Eustochius records that a snake crept under the bed where Plotinus lay, and slipped away through a hole in the wall; at the same moment the philosopher died.

Plotinus wrote the essays that became the Enneads (from Greek ἐννέα (ennéa), or group of nine) over a period of several years from ca. 253 until a few months before his death seventeen years later. Porphyry makes note that the Enneads, before being compiled and arranged by himself, were merely the enormous collection of notes and essays which Plotinus used in his lectures and debates, rather than a formal book. Plotinus was unable to revise his own work due to his poor eyesight, yet his writings required extensive editing, according to Porphyry: his master's handwriting was atrocious, he did not properly separate his words, and he cared little for niceties of spelling. Plotinus intensely disliked the editorial process, and turned the task to Porphyry, who not only polished them but put them into the arrangement we now have.

Major ideas


Plotinus taught that there is a supreme, totally transcendent "One", containing no division, multiplicity, or distinction; beyond all categories of being and non-being. His "One" "cannot be any existing thing", nor is it merely the sum of all things (compare the Stoic doctrine of disbelief in non-material existence), but "is prior to all existents". Plotinus identified his "One" with the concept of 'Good' and the principle of 'Beauty'. (I.6.9)

His "One" concept encompassed thinker and object. Even the self-contemplating intelligence (the noesis of the nous) must contain duality. "Once you have uttered 'The Good,' add no further thought: by any addition, and in proportion to that addition, you introduce a deficiency." (III.8.11) Plotinus denies sentience, self-awareness or any other action (ergon) to the One (τὸ Ἕν, to En; V.6.6). Rather, if we insist on describing it further, we must call the One a sheer potentiality (dynamis) without which nothing could exist. (III.8.10) As Plotinus explains in both places and elsewhere (e.g. V.6.3), it is impossible for the One to be Being or a self-aware Creator God. At (V.6.4), Plotinus compared the One to "light", the Divine Intellect/Nous (Νοῦς, Nous; first will towards Good) to the "Sun", and lastly the Soul (Ψυχή, Psyche) to the "Moon" whose light is merely a "derivative conglomeration of light from the 'Sun'". The first light could exist without any celestial body.

The One, being beyond all attributes including being and non-being, is the source of the world—but not through any act of creation, willful or otherwise, since activity cannot be ascribed to the unchangeable, immutable One. Plotinus argues instead that the multiple cannot exist without the simple. The "less perfect" must, of necessity, "emanate", or issue forth, from the "perfect" or "more perfect". Thus, all of "creation" emanates from the One in succeeding stages of lesser and lesser perfection. These stages are not temporally isolated, but occur throughout time as a constant process.

The One is not just an intellectual concept but something that can be experienced, an experience where one goes beyond all multiplicity.[11] Plotinus writes, "We ought not even to say that he will see, but he will be that which he sees, if indeed it is possible any longer to distinguish between seer and seen, and not boldly to affirm that the two are one."[12]

Emanation by the One

Superficially considered, Plotinus seems to offer an alternative to the orthodox Christian notion of creation ex nihilo (out of nothing), although Plotinus never mentions Christianity in any of his works. The metaphysics of emanation (ἀπορροή aporrhoe (ΙΙ.3.2) or ἀπόρροια aporrhoia (II.3.11)), however, just like the metaphysics of Creation, confirms the absolute transcendence of the One or of the Divine, as the source of the Being of all things that yet remains transcendent of them in its own nature; the One is in no way affected or diminished by these emanations, just as the Christian God in no way is affected by some sort of exterior "nothingness". Plotinus, using a venerable analogy that would become crucial for the (largely Neoplatonic) metaphysics of developed Christian thought, likens the One to the Sun which emanates light indiscriminately without thereby diminishing itself, or reflection in a mirror which in no way diminishes or otherwise alters the object being reflected.[13]

The first emanation is Nous (Divine Mind, Logos, Order, Thought, Reason), identified metaphorically with the Demiurge in Plato's Timaeus. It is the first Will toward Good. From Nous proceeds the World Soul, which Plotinus subdivides into upper and lower, identifying the lower aspect of Soul with nature. From the world soul proceeds individual human souls, and finally, matter, at the lowest level of being and thus the least perfected level of the cosmos. Despite this relatively pedestrian assessment of the material world, Plotinus asserted the ultimately divine nature of material creation since it ultimately derives from the One, through the mediums of Nous and the world soul. It is by the Good or through beauty that we recognize the One, in material things and then in the Forms. (I.6.6 and I.6.9)

The essentially devotional nature of Plotinus' philosophy may be further illustrated by his concept of attaining ecstatic union with the One (henosis). Porphyry relates that Plotinus attained such a union four times during the years he knew him. This may be related to enlightenment, liberation, and other concepts of mystical union common to many Eastern and Western traditions.[14]

The true human and happiness

The philosophy of Plotinus has always exerted a peculiar fascination upon those whose discontent with things as they are has led them to seek the realities behind what they took to be merely the appearances of the sense.

The philosophy of Plotinus: representative books from the Enneads, p. vii[15]

Authentic human happiness for Plotinus consists of the true human identifying with that which is the best in the universe. Because happiness is beyond anything physical, Plotinus stresses the point that worldly fortune does not control true human happiness, and thus “… there exists no single human being that does not either potentially or effectively possess this thing we hold to constitute happiness.” (Enneads I.4.4) The issue of happiness is one of Plotinus’ greatest imprints on Western thought, as he is one of the first to introduce the idea that eudaimonia (happiness) is attainable only within consciousness.

The true human is an incorporeal contemplative capacity of the soul, and superior to all things corporeal. It then follows that real human happiness is independent of the physical world. Real happiness is, instead, dependent on the metaphysical and authentic human being found in this highest capacity of Reason. “For man, and especially the Proficient, is not the Couplement of Soul and body: the proof is that man can be disengaged from the body and disdain its nominal goods.” (Enneads I.4.14) The human who has achieved happiness will not be bothered by sickness, discomfort, etc., as his focus is on the greatest things. Authentic human happiness is the utilization of the most authentically human capacity of contemplation. Even in daily, physical action, the flourishing human’s “… Act is determined by the higher phase of the Soul.” (Enneads III.4.6) Even in the most dramatic arguments Plotinus considers (if the Proficient is subject to extreme physical torture, for example), he concludes this only strengthens his claim of true happiness being metaphysical, as the truly happy human being would understand that which is being tortured is merely a body, not the conscious self, and happiness could persist.

Plotinus offers a comprehensive description of his conception of a person who has achieved eudaimonia. “The perfect life” involves a man who commands reason and contemplation. (Enneads I.4.4) A happy person will not sway between happy and sad, as many of Plotinus' contemporaries believed. Stoics, for example, question the ability of someone to be happy (presupposing happiness is contemplation) if they are mentally incapacitated or even asleep. Plotinus disregards this claim, as the soul and true human do not sleep or even exist in time, nor will a living human who has achieved eudaimonia suddenly stop using its greatest, most authentic capacity just because of the body’s discomfort in the physical realm. “… The Proficient’s will is set always and only inward.” (Enneads I.4.11)

Overall, happiness for Plotinus is "... a flight from this world's ways and things." (Theaet. 176) and a focus on the highest, i.e. Forms and the One.


Henosis is the word for mystical "oneness", "union", or "unity" in classical Greek. In Platonism, and especially Neoplatonism, the goal of henosis is union with what is fundamental in reality: the One (τὸ Ἕν), the Source, or Monad.[16]

As is specified in the writings of Plotinus on henology, one can reach a state of tabula rasa, a blank state where the individual may grasp or merge with The One.[note 1] This absolute simplicity means that the nous or the person is then dissolved, completely absorbed back into the Monad. Here within the Enneads of Plotinus the Monad can be referred to as the Good above the demiurge.[17][18]</ref> The Monad or dunamis (force) is of one singular expression (the will or the one which is the good); all is contained in the Monad and the Monad is all (pantheism). All division is reconciled in the one; the final stage before reaching singularity, called duality (dyad), is completely reconciled in the Monad, Source or One (see monism). As the one source or substance of all things, the Monad is all encompassing. As infinite and indeterminate all is reconciled in the dunamis or one. It is the demiurge or second emanation that is the nous in Plotinus. It is the demiurge (creator, action, energy) or nous that "perceives" and therefore causes the force (potential or One) to manifest as energy, or the dyad called the material world. Nous as being; being and perception (intellect) manifest what is called soul (World Soul).[17]

Henosis for Plotinus was defined in his works as a reversing of the ontological process of consciousness via meditation (in the Western mind to uncontemplate) toward no thought (Nous or demiurge) and no division (dyad) within the individual (being). Plotinus words his teachings to reconcile not only Plato with Aristotle but also various World religions that he had personal contact with during his various travels. Plotinus' works have an ascetic character in that they reject matter as an illusion (non-existent). Matter was strictly treated as immanent, with matter as essential to its being, having no true or transcendential character or essence, substance or ousia (οὐσία). This approach is called philosophical Idealism.[19]

Relation with contemporary philosophy and religion

Plotinus's Relation to Plato

For several centuries after the Protestant Reformation, Neo-Platonism was condemned as a decadent and 'oriental' distortion of Platonism. In a famous 1929 essay, E. R. Dodds showed that key conceptions of Neo-Platonism could be traced from their origin in Plato's dialogues, through his immediate followers (e.g., Speusippus) and the Neo-Pythagoreans, to Plotinus and the Neo-Platonists. Thus Plotinus' philosophy was, he argued, 'not the starting-point of Neo-Platonism but its intellectual culmination.'[20] Further research reinforced this view and by 1954 Merlan could say 'The present tendency is toward bridging rather than widening the gap separating Platonism from Neo-Platonism.'[21]

Since the 1950s, the Tübingen School of Plato interpretation has argued that the so-called 'unwritten doctrines' of Plato debated by Aristotle and the Early Academy strongly resemble Plotinus's metaphysics. In this case, the Neo-Platonic reading of Plato would be, at least in this central area, historically justified. This implies that Neo-Platonism is less of an innovation than it appears without the recognition of Plato's unwritten doctrines. Advocates of the Tübingen School emphasize this advantage of their interpretation. They see Plotinus as advancing a tradition of thought begun by Plato himself. Plotinus's metaphysics, at least in broad outline, was therefore already familiar to the first generation of Plato's students. This confirms Plotinus' own view, for he considered himself not the inventor of a system but the faithful interpreter of Plato's doctrines.[22]

Plotinus and the Gnostics

At least two modern conferences within Hellenic philosophy fields of study have been held in order to address what Plotinus stated in his tract Against the Gnostics and to whom he was addressing it, in order to separate and clarify the events and persons involved in the origin of the term "Gnostic". From the dialogue, it appears that the word had an origin in the Platonic and Hellenistic tradition long before the group calling themselves "Gnostics"—or the group covered under the modern term "Gnosticism"—ever appeared. It would seem that this shift from Platonic to Gnostic usage has led many people to confusion. The strategy of sectarians taking Greek terms from philosophical contexts and re-applying them to religious contexts was popular in Christianity, the Cult of Isis and other ancient religious contexts including Hermetic ones (see Alexander of Abonutichus for an example).

According to A. H. Armstrong, Plotinus and the Neoplatonists viewed Gnosticism as a form of heresy or sectarianism to the Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy of the Mediterranean and Middle East.[note 2] Also according to Armstrong, Plotinus accused them of using senseless jargon and being overly dramatic and insolent in their distortion of Plato's ontology."[note 3] Armstrong argues that Plotinus attacks his opponents as untraditional, irrational and immoral[note 4][note 5] and arrogant.[note 6] Armstrong believed that Plotinus also attacks them as elitist and blasphemous to Plato for the Gnostics despising the material world and its maker.[note 7]

For decades, Armstrong's was the only translation available of Plotinus. For this reason, his claims were authoritative. However, a modern translation by Lloyd P. Gerson doesn't necessarily support all of Armstrong's views. Unlike Armstrong, Gerson didn't find Plotinus to be so vitriolic against the Gnostics.[23] According to Gerson:

As Plotinus himself tells us, at the time of this treatise’s composition some of his friends were ‘attached’ to Gnostic doctrine, and he believed that this attachment was harmful. So he sets out here a number of objections and corrections. Some of these are directed at very specific tenets of Gnosticism, e.g. the introduction of a ‘new earth’ or a principle of ‘Wisdom’, but the general thrust of this treatise has a much broader scope. The Gnostics are very critical of the sensible universe and its contents, and as a Platonist, Plotinus must share this critical attitude to some extent. But here he makes his case that the proper understanding of the highest principles and emanation forces us to respect the sensible world as the best possible imitation of the intelligible world.

Plotinus seems to direct his attacks at a very specific sect of Gnostics, most notably a sect of Christian Gnostics that held anti-polytheistic and anti-daemon views, and that preached salvation was possible without struggle.[23] At one point, Plotinus makes clear that his major grudge is the way Gnostics 'misused' Plato's teachings, and not their own teachings themselves:

There are no hard feelings if they tell us in which respects they intend to disagree with Plato [...] Rather, whatever strikes them as their own distinct views in comparison with the Greeks’, these views – as well as the views that contradict them – should be forthrightly set out on their own in a considerate and philosophical manner.

The Neoplatonic movement (though Plotinus would have simply referred to himself as a philosopher of Plato) seems to be motivated by the desire of Plotinus to revive the pagan philosophical tradition.[note 8] Plotinus was not claiming to innovate with the Enneads, but to clarify aspects of the works of Plato that he considered misrepresented or misunderstood.[3] Plotinus does not claim to be an innovator, but rather a communicator of a tradition.[25] Plotinus referred to tradition as a way to interpret Plato's intentions. Because the teachings of Plato were for members of the academy rather than the general public, it was easy for outsiders to misunderstand Plato's meaning. However, Plotinus attempted to clarify how the philosophers of the academy had not arrived at the same conclusions (such as misotheism or dystheism of the creator God as an answer to the problem of evil) as the targets of his criticism.

Against causal astrology

Plotinus seems to be one of the first to argue against the still popular notion of causal astrology. In the late tractate 2.3, "Are the stars causes?", Plotinus makes the argument that specific stars influencing one's fortune (a common Hellenistic theme) attributes irrationality to a perfect universe, and invites moral depravity. He does, however, claim the stars and planets are ensouled, as witnessed by their movement.


Ancient world

The emperor Julian the Apostate was deeply influenced by Neoplatonism,[26] as was Hypatia of Alexandria.[27] Neoplatonism influenced many Christians as well, including Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.[28][29] St. Augustine, though often referred to as a "Platonist," acquired his Platonist philosophy through the mediation of the Neoplatonist teachings of Plotinus.[30][31]


Plotinus' philosophy had an influence on the development of Christian theology. In A History of Western Philosophy, philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote that:

To the Christian, the Other World was the Kingdom of Heaven, to be enjoyed after death; to the Platonist, it was the eternal world of ideas, the real world as opposed to that of illusory appearance. Christian theologians combined these points of view, and embodied much of the philosophy of Plotinus. [...] Plotinus, accordingly, is historically important as an influence in moulding the Christianity of the Middle Ages and of theology.[32]

The Eastern Orthodox position on energy, for example, is often contrasted with the position of the Roman Catholic Church, and in part this is attributed to varying interpretations of Aristotle and Plotinus, either through Thomas Aquinas for the Roman Catholics or Gregory Palamas for the Orthodox Christians.


Neoplatonism and the ideas of Plotinus influenced medieval Islam as well, since the Sunni Abbasids fused Greek concepts into sponsored state texts, and found great influence amongst the Ismaili Shia[33] and Persian philosophers as well, such as Muhammad al-Nasafi and Abu Yaqub Sijistani. By the 11th century, Neoplatonism was adopted by the Fatimid state of Egypt, and taught by their da'i.[33] Neoplatonism was brought to the Fatimid court by Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani, although his teachings differed from Nasafi and Sijistani, who were more aligned with the original teachings of Plotinus.[34] The teachings of Kirmani in turn influenced philosophers such as Nasir Khusraw of Persia.[34]


As with Islam and Christianity, Neoplatonism in general and Plotinus in particular influenced speculative thought. Notable thinkers expressing Neoplatonist themes are Solomon ibn Gabirol (Latin: Avicebron) and Moses ben Maimon (Latin: Maimonides). As with Islam and Christianity, apophatic theology and the privative nature of evil are two prominent themes that such thinkers picked up from either Plotinus or his successors.


In the Renaissance the philosopher Marsilio Ficino set up an Academy under the patronage of Cosimo de Medici in Florence, mirroring that of Plato. His work was of great importance in reconciling the philosophy of Plato directly with Christianity. One of his most distinguished pupils was Pico della Mirandola, author of An Oration On the Dignity of Man.


In England, Plotinus was the cardinal influence on the 17th-century school of the Cambridge Platonists, and on numerous writers from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to W. B. Yeats and Kathleen Raine.[35][36][37][38]


Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Ananda Coomaraswamy used the writing of Plotinus in their own texts as a superlative elaboration upon Indian monism, specifically Upanishadic and Advaita Vedantic thought. Coomaraswamy has compared Plotinus' teachings to the Hindu school of Advaita Vedanta (advaita meaning "not two" or "non-dual").[39]

Advaita Vedanta and Neoplatonism have been compared by J. F. Staal,[40] Frederick Copleston,[41] Aldo Magris and Mario Piantelli,[42] Radhakrishnan,[43] Gwen Griffith-Dickson,[44] and John Y. Fenton.[45]

The joint influence of Advaitin and Neoplatonic ideas on Ralph Waldo Emerson was considered by Dale Riepe in 1967.[46]

See also


  1. Plotinus:
    * "Our thought cannot grasp the One as long as any other image remains active in the soul. To this end, you must set free your soul from all outward things and turn wholly within yourself, with no more leaning to what lies outside, and lay your mind bare of ideal forms, as before of the objects of sense, and forget even yourself, and so come within sight of that One. (6.9.7)
    * "If he remembers who he became when he merged with the One, he will bear its image in himself. He was himself one, with no diversity in himself or his outward relations; for no movement was in him, no passion, no desire for another, once the ascent was accomplished. Nor indeed was there any reason or though, nor, if we dare say it, any trace of himself." (6.9.11)
  2. From Introduction to Against the Gnostics in Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pp. 220–222:
    The treatise as it stands in the Enneads is a most powerful protest on behalf of Hellenic philosophy against the un-Hellenic heresy (as it was from the Platonist as well as the orthodox Christian point of view) of Gnosticism. There were Gnostics among Plotinus's own friends, whom he had not succeeded in converting (Enneads ch.10 of this treatise) and he and his pupils devoted considerable time and energy to anti-Gnostic controversy (Life of Plotinus ch.16). He obviously considered Gnosticism an extremely dangerous influence, likely to pervert the minds even of members of his own circle. It is impossible to attempt to give an account of Gnosticism here. By far the best discussion of what the particular group of Gnostics Plotinus knew believed is M. Puech's admirable contribution to Entretiens Hardt V (Les Sourcesde Plotin). But it is important for the understanding of this treatise to be clear about the reasons why Plotinus disliked them so intensely and thought their influence so harmful.
  3. From Introduction to Against the Gnostics in Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pp. 220–222:
    Short statement of the doctrine of the three hypostasis, the One, Intellect and Soul; there cannot be more or fewer than these three.
    1. Criticism of the attempts to multiply the hypostasis, and especially of the idea of two intellects, one which thinks and that other which thinks that it thinks. (Against the Gnostics, Enneads ch. 1). The true doctrine of Soul (ch. 2).
    2. The law of necessary procession and the eternity of the universe (ch. 3).
    - Attack on the Gnostic doctrine of the making of the universe by a fallen soul, and on their despising of the universe and the heavenly bodies (chs. 4–5).
    - The sense-less jargon of the Gnostics, their plagiarism from and perversion of Plato, and their insolent arrogance (ch. 6).
    3. The true doctrine about Universal Soul and the goodness of the universe which it forms and rules (chs. 7–8).
    4. Refutation of objections from the inequalities and injustices of human life (ch. 9).
    5. Ridiculous arrogance of the Gnostics who refuse to acknowledge the hierarchy of created gods and spirits and say that they alone are sons of God and superior to the heavens (ch. 9).
    6. The absurdities of the Gnostic doctrine of the fall of "Wisdom" (Sophia) and of the generation and activities of the Demiurge, maker of the visible universe (chs. 10–12).
    7. False and melodramatic Gnostic teaching about the cosmic spheres and their influence (ch. 13).
    8. The blasphemous falsity of the Gnostic claim to control the higher powers by magic and the absurdity of their claim to cure diseases by casting out demons (ch. 14).
    9. The false other-worldliness of the Gnostics leads to immorality (ch. 15).
    10. The true Platonic other-worldliness, which loves and venerates the material universe in all its goodness and beauty as the most perfect possible image of the intelligible, contracted at length with the false, Gnostic, other-worldliness which hates and despises the material universe and its beauties (chs. 16–18).
    A. H. Lawrence, Introduction to Against the Gnostics in Plotinus' Enneads, pages 220–222
  4. From Introduction to Against the Gnostics in Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pp. 220–222:
    The teaching of the Gnostics seems to him untraditional, irrational and immoral. They despise and revile the ancient Platonic teaching and claim to have a new and superior wisdom of their own: but in fact anything that is true in their teaching comes from Plato, and all they have done themselves is to add senseless complications and pervert the true traditional doctrine into a melodramatic, superstitious fantasy designed to feed their own delusions of grandeur. They reject the only true way of salvation through wisdom and virtue, the slow patient study of truth and pursuit of perfection by men who respect the wisdom of the ancients and that know their place in the universe. Pages 220–222
  5. Introduction to Against the Gnostics in Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pp. 220–222:
    9. The false other-worldliness of the Gnostics leads to immorality (Enneads ch. 15).
  6. Introduction to Against the Gnostics in Plotinus' Enneads as translated by A. H. Armstrong, pp. 220–222:
    Ridiculous arrogance of the Gnostics who refuse to acknowledge the hierarchy of created gods and spirits and say that they alone are sons of God and superior to the heavens (Enneads ch. 9)
  7. They claim to be a privileged caste of beings, in whom alone God is interested, and who are saved not by their own efforts but by some dramatic and arbitrary divine proceeding; and this, Plotinus says, leads to immorality. Worst of all, they despise and hate the material universe and deny its goodness and the goodness of its maker. This for a Platonist is utter blasphemy, and all the worse because it obviously derives to some extent from the sharply other-worldly side of Plato's own teaching (e.g. in the Phaedo). At this point in his attack Plotinus comes very close in some ways to the orthodox Christian opponents of Gnosticism, who also insist that this world is the good work of God in his goodness. But, here as on the question of salvation, the doctrine which Plotinus is defending is as sharply opposed on other ways to orthodox Christianity as to Gnosticism: for he maintains not only the goodness of the material universe but also its eternity and its divinity. The idea that the universe could have a beginning and end is inseparably connected in his mind with the idea that the divine action in making it is arbitrary and irrational. And to deny the divinity (though a subordinate and dependent divinity) of the World-Soul, and of those noblest of embodied living beings the heavenly bodies, seems to him both blasphemous and unreasonable. Pages 220–222
  8. "... as Plotinus had endeavored to revive the religious spirit of paganism".[24]


  1. Aristotelianism Relationship to Neoplatonism
  2. "Who was Plotinus?".
  3. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Plotinus.
  4. Bilolo, M.: La notion de « l’Un » dans les Ennéades de Plotin et dans les Hymnes thébains. Contribution à l’étude des sources égyptiennes du néo-platonisme. In: D. Kessler, R. Schulz (Eds.), "Gedenkschrift für Winfried Barta ḥtp dj n ḥzj" (Münchner Ägyptologische Untersuchungen, Bd. 4), Frankfurt; Berlin; Bern; New York; Paris; Wien: Peter Lang, 1995, pp. 67–91.
  5. "Plotinus." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press, 2003.
  6. "Plotinus." The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Oxford University Press, 1993, 2003.
  7. Leete, Helen, 1938-,. Beauty and the mystic : Plotinus and Hawkins. Epping, N.S.W. ISBN 9780987524836. OCLC 967937243.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. Porphyry, On the Life of Plotinus and the Order of His Books, Ch. 3 (in Armstrong's Loeb translation, "he became eager to make acquaintance with the Persian philosophical discipline and that prevailing among the Indians").
  9. Porphyry, Vita Plotini, 9. See also Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon, and Jackson P. Hershbell (1999), Iamblichus on The Mysteries, page xix. SBL. who say that "to gain some credible chronology, one assumes that Ariston married Amphicleia some time after Plotinus's death"
  10. Mark Edwards, Neoplatonic Saints: The Lives of Plotinus and Proclus by Their Students, Liverpool University Press, 2000, p. 4 n. 20.
  11. Stace, W. T. (1960) The Teachings of the Mystics, New York, Signet, pp. 110–123
  12. Stace, W. T. (1960) The Teachings of the Mystics, New York, Signet, p. 122
  13. Plotinus (204—270 C.E.)
  14. Lander, Janis (2013). Spiritual Art and Art Education. Routledge. p. 76. ISBN 9781134667895.
  15. Plotinus (1950). The philosophy of Plotinus: representative books from the Enneads. Appleton-Century-Crofts. p. vii. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  16. Stamatellos, Giannis. Plotinus and the Presocratics: A Philosophical Study of Presocratic Influences in Plotinus' Enneads. SUNY Series in Ancient Greek Philosophy. SUNY Press, 2007, p. 37 ISBN 0791470628
  17. Neoplatonism and Gnosticism by Richard T. Wallis, Jay Bregman, International Society for Neoplatonic Studies, p. 55
  18. Richard T. Wallis; Jay Bregman (1992). "Pleroma and Noetic Cosmos: A Comparative Study". Neoplatonism and Gnosticism. SUNY Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-7914-1337-1.
  19. Schopenhauer wrote of this Neoplatonist philosopher: "With Plotinus there even appears, probably for the first time in Western philosophy, idealism that had long been current in the East even at that time, for it taught (Enneads, iii, lib. vii, c.10) that the soul has made the world by stepping from eternity into time, with the explanation: 'For there is for this universe no other place than the soul or mind' (neque est alter hujus universi locus quam anima), indeed the ideality of time is expressed in the words: 'We should not accept time outside the soul or mind' (oportet autem nequaquam extra animam tempus accipere)." (Parerga and Paralipomena, Volume I, "Fragments for the History of Philosophy," § 7)
  20. E. R. Dodds, 'The Parmenides of Plato and the Origin of the Neoplatonic One,' The Classical Quarterly, v. 22, No. 3/4, 1928, pp. 129-142, esp. 140.
  21. Philip Merlan, From Platonism to Neoplatonism (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1954, 1968), p. 3.
  22. Detlef Thiel: Die Philosophie des Xenokrates im Kontext der Alten Akademie, München 2006, pp. 197ff. and note 64; Jens Halfwassen: Der Aufstieg zum Einen.
  23. Plotinus: The Enneads. Cambridge University Press. 2017. ISBN 9781107001770.
  24. A Biographical History of Philosophy, by George Henry Lewes Published 1892, G. Routledge & Sons, LTD, p. 294
  25. Pseudo-Dionysius in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  26. Dingeldein, Laura B. (2016). "Julian's Philosophy and His Religious Program". In DesRosiers, Nathaniel P.; Vuong, Lily C. (eds.). Religious Competition in the Greco-Roman World. Atlanta: SBL Press. pp. 119–129. ISBN 978-0884141587.
  27. Michael A. B. Deakin (2018-02-22). "Hypatia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2018-03-26.
  28. W. R. Inge (April 1900). "The Permanent Influence of Neoplatonism upon Christianity". The American Journal of Theology. 4 (2): 328–344. JSTOR 3153114.
  29. Rhodes, Michael Craig (2014). "Pseudo-Dionysius' concept of God". International Journal of Philosophy and Theology. 75 (4): 306–318 via Taylor & Francis.
  30. Mendelson, Michael (2016). "Saint Augustine". In Edward N. Zalta (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 ed.). Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  31. Gersh, Stephen (2012). "The First Principles of Latin Neoplatonism: Augustine, Macrobius, Boethius". Vivarium. 50 (2): 113–117, 120–125, 130–132, 134–138. JSTOR 41963885.
  32. "A History of Western Philosophy." Bertrand Russell. Simon and Schuster, INC. 1945. pp. 284–285
  33. Heinz Halm, Shi'ism, Columbia University Press, 2004, p. 176.
  34. Heinz Halm, Shi'ism, Columbia University Press, 2004, p. 177.
  35. Michaud, Derek (2017). Reason Turned into Sense: John Smith on Spiritual Sensation. Peeters. pp. 102–105, 114, 115, 129, 137, 146, 153, 154, 155, 172, 174, 175, 177–178, 180, 181, 181, 184, 185, 188, 195.
  37. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (2019). The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Volume 4: 1819-1826: Notes. Princeton University Press. p. 453. ISBN 978-0-691-65599-4.
  38. Anna Baldwin; Sarah Hutton; Senior Lecturer School of Humanities Sarah Hutton (24 March 1994). Platonism and the English Imagination. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-40308-5.
  40. J. F. Staal (1961), Advaita and Neoplatonism: A critical study in comparative philosophy, Madras: University of Madras
  41. Frederick Charles Copleston. "Religion and the One 1979–1981". Archived from the original on 2010-04-09. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
  42. Special section "Fra Oriente e Occidente" in Annuario filosofico No. 6 (1990), including the articles "Plotino e l'India" by Aldo Magris and "L'India e Plotino" by Mario Piantelli
  43. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (ed.)(1952), History of Philosophy Eastern and Western, Vol.2. London: George Allen & Unwin. p. 114
  44. "Creator (or not?)". Retrieved 2010-01-08.
  45. John Y. Fenton (1981), "Mystical Experience as a Bridge for Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion: A Critique", Journal of the American Academy of Religion, p. 55
  46. Dale Riepe (1967), "Emerson and Indian Philosophy", Journal of the History of Ideas 28(1):115 (1967)


Critical editions of the Greek text
  • Émile Bréhier, Plotin: Ennéades (with French translation), Collection Budé, 1924–1938.
  • Paul Henry and Hans-Rudolf Schwyzer (eds.), Editio maior (3 volumes), Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1951–1973.
  • Paul Henry and Hans-Rudolf Schwyzer (eds.), Editio minor, Oxford, Oxford Classical Text, 1964–1982.
Complete English translation
  • Thomas Taylor, Collected Writings of Plotinus, Frome, Prometheus Trust, 1994. ISBN 1-898910-02-2 (contains approximately half of the Enneads)
  • Plotinus. The Enneads (translated by Stephen MacKenna), London, Medici Society, 1917–1930 (an online version is available at Sacred Texts); 2nd edition, B. S. Page (ed.), 1956.
  • A. H. Armstrong, Plotinus. Enneads (with Greek text), Loeb Classical Library, 7 vol., 1966–1988.
  • Lloyd P. Gerson (ed.), George Boys-Stones, John M. Dillon, Lloyd P. Gerson, R.A. King, Andrew Smith and James Wilberding (trs.). The Enneads. Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  • J. H. Sleeman and G. Pollet, Lexicon Plotinianum, Leiden, 1980.
  • Roberto Radice (ed.), Lexicon II: Plotinus, Milan, Biblia, 2004. (Electronic edition by Roberto Bombacigno)
The Life of Plotinus by Porphyry
  • Porphyry, "On the Life of Plotinus and the Arrangement of his Works" in Mark Edwards (ed.), Neoplatonic Saints: The Lives of Plotinus and Proclus by their Students, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2000.
Anthologies of texts in translation, with annotations
  • Kevin Corrigan, Reading Plotinus: A Practical Introduction to Neoplatonism, West Lafayette, Purdue University Press, 2005.
  • John M. Dillon and Lloyd P. Gerson, Neoplatonic Philosophy: Introductory Readings, Hackett, 2004.
Introductory works
  • Erik Emilsson, Plotinus, New York: Routledge, 2017.
  • Kevin Corrigan, Reading Plotinus. A Practical Introduction to Neoplatonism, Purdue University Press, 1995.
  • Lloyd P. Gerson, Plotinus, New York, Routledge, 1994.
  • Lloyd P. Gerson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plotinus, Cambridge, 1996.
  • Dominic J. O'Meara, Plotinus. An Introduction to the Enneads, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1993. (Reprinted 2005)
  • John M. Rist, Plotinus. The Road to Reality, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1967.
Major commentaries in English
  • Cinzia Arruzza, Plotinus: Ennead II.5, On What Is Potentially and What Actually, The Enneads of Plotinus Series edited by John M. Dillon and Andrew Smith, Parmenides Publishing, 2015, ISBN 978-1-930972-63-6
  • Michael Atkinson, Plotinus: Ennead V.1, On the Three Principal Hypostases, Oxford, 1983.
  • Kevin Corrigan, Plotinus' Theory of Matter-Evil: Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander of Aphrodisias (II.4, II.5, III.6, I.8), Leiden, 1996.
  • John N. Deck, Nature, Contemplation and the One: A Study in the Philosophy of Plotinus, University of Toronto Press, 1967; Paul Brunton Philosophical Foundation, 1991.
  • John M. Dillon, H.J. Blumenthal, Plotinus: Ennead IV.3-4.29, "Problems Concerning the Soul, The Enneads of Plotinus Series edited by John M. Dillon and Andrew Smith, Parmenides Publishing, 2015, ISBN 978-1-930972-89-6
  • Eyjólfur K. Emilsson, Steven K. Strange, Plotinus: Ennead VI.4 & VI.5: On the Presence of Being, One and the Same, Everywhere as a Whole, The Enneads of Plotinus Series edited by John M. Dillon and Andrew Smith, Parmenides Publishing, 2015, ISBN 978-1-930972-34-6
  • Barrie Fleet, Plotinus: Ennead III.6, On the Impassivity of the Bodiless, Oxford, 1995.
  • Barrie Fleet, Plotinus: Ennead IV.8, On the Descent of the Soul into Bodies, The Enneads of Plotinus Series edited by John M. Dillon and Andrew Smith, Parmenides Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-930972-77-3
  • Lloyd P. Gerson, Plotinus: Ennead V.5, That the Intelligibles are not External to the Intellect, and on the Good, The Enneads of Plotinus Series edited by John M. Dillon and Andrew Smith, Parmenides Publishing, 2013, ISBN 978-1-930972-85-8
  • Gary M. Gurtler, SJ, Plotinus: Ennead IV.4.30-45 & IV.5, "Problems Concerning the Soul, The Enneads of Plotinus Series edited by John M. Dillon and Andrew Smith, Parmenides Publishing, 2015, ISBN 978-1-930972-69-8
  • W. Helleman-Elgersma, Soul-Sisters. A Commentary on Enneads IV, 3 (27), 1–8 of Plotinus, Amsterdam, 1980.
  • James Luchte, Early Greek Thought: Before the Dawn. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-0567353313.
  • Kieran McGroarty, Plotinus on Eudaimonia: A Commentary on Ennead I.4, Oxford, 2006.
  • P. A. Meijer, Plotinus on the Good or the One (VI.9), Amsterdam, 1992.
  • H. Oosthout, Modes of Knowledge and the Transcendental: An Introduction to Plotinus Ennead V.3, Amsterdam, 1991.
  • J. Wilberding, Plotinus' Cosmology. A study of Ennead II. 1 (40), Oxford, 2006.
  • A. M. Wolters, Plotinus on Eros (eNN. III.5), Amsterdam, 1972.
General works on Neoplatonism
  • Robert M. Berchman, From Philo to Origen: Middle Platonism in Transition, Chico, Scholars Press, 1984.
  • Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy: Vol. 1, Part 2. ISBN 0-385-00210-6
  • P. Merlan, "Greek Philosophy from Plato to Plotinus" in A. H. Armstrong (ed.), The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, Cambridge, 1967. ISBN 0-521-04054-X
  • Pauliina Remes, Neoplatonism (Ancient Philosophies), University of California Press, 2008.
  • Thomas Taylor, The fragments that remain of the lost writings of Proclus, surnamed the Platonic successor, London, 1825. (Selene Books reprint edition, 1987. ISBN 0-933601-11-5)
  • Richard T. Wallis, Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, University of Oklahoma, 1984. ISBN 0-7914-1337-3 and ISBN 0-7914-1338-1
Studies on some aspects of Plotinus' work
  • R. B. Harris (ed.), Neoplatonism and Indian Thought, Albany, 1982.
  • Giannis Stamatellos, Plotinus and the Presocratics. A Philosophical Study of Presocratic Influences in Plotinus' Enneads, Albany, 2008.
  • N. Joseph Torchia, Plotinus, Tolma, and the Descent of Being, New York, Peter Lang, 1993. ISBN 0-8204-1768-8
  • Antonia Tripolitis, The Doctrine of the Soul in the thought of Plotinus and Origen, Libra Publishers, 1978.
  • M. F. Wagner (ed.), Neoplatonism and Nature. Studies in Plotinus' Enneads, Albany, 2002.
Text of the Enneads
Online English translations
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